Interviewed & written by Isao Tokuhashi
Mail to: firstname.lastname@example.org
Shota Ko (China)
Representative of China Elite Club
One day we received a mail. “I’ll launch a new web media so let me hear your ideas”. A person who sent us this mail is Shota Ko, today’s interviewee.
We met him for the first time at a seminar about how to attract foreign tourists to Japan. We swapped business cards with each other, but we didn’t talk very much. However he remembered us, who has been running a tiny web media and asked for our advice.
Then we met each other for the first time in six months. He was born in China and lived there for over 10 years and has been in Japan for more than 10 years. He is a Chinese with native-level Chinese and Japanese. So he’s held exchange parties with Chinese and Japanese and study sessions in order to learn about both countries more deeply. And he’ll start his media project soon, which will be run by people who are familiar with Chinese & Japanese culture.
We thought, “There’s nothing that we can teach him”. Rather he told us about his organization called “China Elite Club” (CEC) and his mission very passionately. Then we got the figure on what we’re lacking.
We learned from him thorough this interview even though we were asked for some advice from him!
What I want to make come true 300 years from now
Looking back at history, Asian countries, Middle East, India and African countries have obeyed Western logic. There are some frictions between China and Japan, but both of us have depended on Western logic.
So I have an idea – which will be realized 300 years later – a role reversal between West and Asia. More specifically, Westerners will think that they want to be Asians in their next lives – We’d like to change the world up to there. In order to realize that, we need to tell that we are much more forward-looking than them.
But don’t get me wrong. I won’t foster any conflict between Asia and the West. Neither capitalism nor socialism is perfect. The same way as it, everything has negative elements. So we’ll make the shortcomings of both the West and Asia by making a new framework.
For example, When Hilary Clinton lost to Barak Obama in the 2008 US presidential election. she held on him even though they engaged in policy debates until just before. Actually they might act like they were good friends, but it showed Westerners can see things objectively. It is doubtful whether Asians can do that honestly.
But on the other hand, I believe we Asians are more warmhearted. We cannot be rational or objective like Westerners, but we tend to prioritize human empathy over monetary profit. So we are better suited for social contribution activities than Westerners are I think.
As I’ll tell you in detail later, I used to be involved in the China-Japan business. While I was engaging in it, I’ve become convinced that the important thing is how much you can contribute to society, not figures written on B/S or P/L statements. A company’s profit was generated by the social contribution or not? That will be the company’s value.
Who’s a true elite?
The advantage of our organization, CEC, is that people who want to repay to society. Nobody joined us for money. I’m an only full-time staff of CEC and a staff of over 10 is involved in it as volunteers who use their technical knowledge.
We are a civilian organization but we can do things that companies cannot do. I believe we’d produce better results than companies and gain much more trust than one company could gain if we continue with our efforts because we never seek near-term benefit.
To us, “elite” is not a person of figure, person who is honored, or person who has money. To go to the extreme, a person who appropriates the money he/she has made and played around in grand style is an elite?
My definition of elite is “a person who can contribute to create a good environment for people around you or our descendants”. The meaning of “elite”, which is currently a word to describe a person who has a high education or who makes much money, will change with the evolution of society and human beings.
Originally money has no value. Nations provide a value to money and the value is manipulated by some people. The financial confusion which has occurred in some areas in the world is the result of the phenomenon that people lost sight of the intrinsic values of things because of monetary standards. On the other hand, your rich spirit will be inherited for generations and the depth will be added to it even after you died.
CEC holds many kinds of events that are categorized such as “CEC-True” (Big group events), “CEC-More” (Small group events), “CEC-HighFive” (Entertainment events) and “CEC-Special” (Non-regular events). They promote mutual understanding between Japan and China through those events. *Click to enlarge.
(Photos by China Elite Club)
Recently I made a documentary. That is a story of the exchange between my mother and a Japanese old person who used to be a former Japanese soldier. Now he lives in Fukuoka Prefecture, a southern part of Japan. To my mother, he is like a Japanese father. When people talk about the war, they highlight its bloodiness and cruelty. But on the other hand, whether they are soldiers or citizens, people who were sucked into the war were innocent and many beautiful stories appeared among them.
We’ll launch our own media, which will be run by people who’ve lived in or been to both China and Japan and focus on people who’ve experienced both cultures. We want it to be balanced and objective China-Japan media. We won’t cover only celebrities but also people who have any background and who are involved in activities as bridges between China and Japan.
We want to actively tell their beautiful China-Japan stories that have not been covered on the existing media. If we do so, people would feel that persons close to them have been involved in China. Also they would feel that China and Japan are close to each other. What we want is that they get interested in those people.
From now on, each of us will have multiple identities. As for me, I’m not only Chinese but also Eastern Asian and Asian. This thought or idea would make Asia to be the world leader again someday.
Limitation of Business
I was born in Shanghai and raised there until I was 14. My parents moved to Japan ahead of me in order to make a steady income.
I experienced a lot of different things here in Japan, and got involved in tying up the authority of representation of the internet payment system for the China Union Pay card users at a company in a Japanese financial group. That helped Chinese people in China to buy things at Japanese internet shopping sites by using their cards.
After that, I worked on creating an internet shopping site for Chinese people in China and website which was aimed at attracting Chinese tourists to Japan. Also I was in charge of setting up a Japan-China joint company who does marketing research/consultation for Japanese companies that were interested in advancing into Chinese market.
I was promoted to a board member of the company only in a little over three years, so I can say I was relatively successful. I believe I could achieve a goal of connecting Japan and China through business to some extent, but actually there were limits.
“Know the enemy and know yourself, and in a hundred battles you will never be defeated” – that’s an expression of Sun Tzu‘s “The Art of War“. But Japanese have done business with countries without knowing about them. Japanese companies who didn’t know about China very much went between Japanese companies and Chinese companies. It seemed that intermediary companies deceived Japanese companies. Before you initiate business with China, you need to interact with Chinese people on a regular basis. That’s very important. Chinese and Japanese look similar, but it’s not unusual that their sense of values and ways of thinking are totally different. Company executives or decision-makers have to know about both Japan and China to a degree.
In order to do business with Chinese, you must know about them. But Japanese companies tend to skip that process. It could be because of a media impact, but some Japanese develop fear of Chinese. As long as such conditions persist, business between Japan and China must not go well.
I’m really grateful to my former company, where I gained a lot of experiences there. But I recognized that business couldn’t break the barrier which towers from deep in the ground between Japan and China. In order to break it, I thought that we would need to provide both Japanese and Chinese opportunities to get to know each other deeply. Then I quit a company to make it come true.
Actually I cannot work hard for profit. I felt that I would be able to make a significant contribution infinitely when I took on the mission and received support from people.
Making Japan and China “good friends”
I never deny the existence of government and companies. But it shouldn’t be a choice between the political activity and commercial activity. We need to add a new element to the existing ones.
I’m not suggesting that the government and companies cannot do what we are going to do. But governments pursue national interests and companies pursue a profit. We won’t dive into the red ocean, where many people pursue the interests of themselves. Creating a “blue ocean” which is a non-competitive atmosphere – that’s our idea.
If you and your friend are really good friends, you should be able to talk frankly to each other, like, “That is not right about you!”. But you do not only point to your friend’s lacking parts but also make constructive suggestions to him/her like “If you do this, you’ll improve”. I want the relationship between China and Japan to be like that.
As I told you before, what is the value of all living things? That’s to produce their offspring and to leave offspring with a better environment. So we should put an emphasis on the future rather than the present. But human beings act against it in the actual world. We tend to think “If our generation is doing all right then everything’s OK”.
On the other hand, we want Japanese to know there are Chinese who think about our future seriously like us, and we want Chinese to know there are Japanese who think the same way as we do. One of CEC’s missions is to draw a new picture of Chinese or create a new image of Chinese. So we’ll continue on our course even though people don’t understand us now.
We hope they will understand the significance of our activities a year from now, two years from now, five years from now or 10 years from now.
In Onagawa, Miyagi Prefecture, one of the areas destroyed by 3.11 Earthquake, a Japanese man rescued his Chinese trainees from tsunami at the sacrifice of his life. CEC’s voluntary members participated in volunteer activities in order to pay him back. They’ve been to the area twice so far. *Click to enlarge.
(Photos by China Elite Club)
I think about Japan’s future. This is just a “what if”, if I become a Japanese prime minister, there is only one policy I adopt; “No 3-year high school curriculum. Sending students to the developing countries”. If it’ll be adopted and continued, Japan will change 20 years from now.
In Japan, you can live comfortably even if you’re a part-timer. You can earn US$100 a day here. But in the developing countries. you might only get US$10 or less even though you work for more than 10 hours. But people in those countries get stars in their eyes. If you see such a sight, your whole world-view or attitude on life will be changed and your future direction would be determined.
I’m a organizer of China Elite Club, but we would be able to change the world if we could change the relationship between China and Japan.
What is Japan to you?
First of all, my second home. Japan is where I’ve studied a lot and there are many people who I can trust. Also Japan is a base for making my dream come true with China. Japan is a must place for me.
China Elite Club official website (Japanese)：http://chinaeliteclub.net/